Federal Criminal Appeals: What You Need to Know

the row of classical commons with steps

The federal appeals process can seem daunting and bewildering on the outside to the general public. And while the Federal Appellate Courts are designed to be largely inaccessible and guarded, the fact of the matter is, when it comes to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Courts do understand that judges and juries can make mistakes that require modification or undoing of verdicts and judgments. 

To shed some light on the federal appeals process and answer any questions that you might have, below are some of the most often overlooked essential facts about federal criminal appeals.

A Federal Appeal Is Not A Retrial

A common misperception about federal criminal appeals is that it’s a re-trial or a new trial of the same case. A federal appeal is not a re-trial, but instead, a proceeding that is prompted by an initial notice of appeal filed by the appealing party. After an appeal is filed, the appealing party files a brief that details the legal errors that were made by the court. Once received, the other party responds to the brief. If it can be proven that the court committed a violation during the case’s trial, the case’s verdict may be thrown out or sent to a lower court with orders to vacate the decision.

The Federal Appeals Process Can Take Many Months

The federal appeals process isn’t fast-moving by any means. The federal courts handle hundreds of cases and are hyper-crowded. Between scheduling court dates and the wait time for the court to receive all necessary paperwork, the process can take several weeks or months.

The Federal Appeals Process Can be Expensive

Much like trials, the cost of appeals can range significantly but is heavily based on the complexity of the issues at hand and the duration of the process. So, what is factored into the cost of an appeal?

  • The cost of filing a civil action with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims – $350.
  • Administrative fees such as transcription, copying, messenger, and delivery costs can quickly add up and cost hundreds of dollars depending on the complexity of the case and the length of the trial.
    Each record search performed by the clerk of the Court of Federal Claims is $32 per name or item searched.
  • Depending on the attorney’s experience and level of expertise, attorney fees can range between $200-$400 an hour.
  • Expert witness fees can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on the weapons, injuries, and acts involved in the case.
  • Miscellaneous expenses, such as travel costs for the defendant, attorneys, and witnesses, as well as hotel accommodations and rental cars can add up quickly and cost hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on the length of the trial.

To summarize, a multi-month trial, with multiple attorneys and expert witnesses involved, will cost significantly more than a trial for a simple case that has few or no expert witnesses and only requires assistance from one attorney. For example, a simple case could cost less than $10,000 in fees, while a more complex case, with multiple attorneys and other incurring costs could exceed $100,000 or more.

Research is Key to Writing a Winning Brief

Unlike trials, when it comes to an appeal, much of your attorney’s time will be spent researching and preparing your appeal. First, your attorney will comb through records and transcripts using online legal databases and find information associated with your appeal and identify any errors. Then, after identifying all possible errors, your attorney will determine which errors should be pursued and locate opinions written by appellate courts and published in reporters and in online databases to support your case’s argument when writing a persuasive, winning brief to submit to the appellate court. The brief will detail the violations that the court committed and why your attorney believes that a reversal of the verdict is required.

A Strong Oral Argument Can Significantly Impact the Outcome of a Case

Most federal appeals are decided solely using the written briefs from the appealing party and the responding party. However, when requested and approved, an oral argument can be given before a panel of judges to firmly restate the legal issues that occurred during the trial, how these errors can be proven, and why the verdict should be thrown out. While oral arguments are not always granted, an experienced attorney knows how to garner the panel’s attention and can encourage the counsel to grant an oral argument for the appeal. Oral arguments are a powerful tool that can be used to thoroughly answer any questions that the judges have regarding the brief, and give your attorney another opportunity to expertly drive home their argument regarding why the verdict should be overturned.

Losing an Appeal Doesn’t Mark the End

While most federal appeals are final, a petition for a “writ of certiorari” can be filed to request that the Supreme Court review the appeal. Most requests are denied, but a small number of cases are permitted to be heard by the Supreme Court.

Choosing an Appellate Attorney to Handle Your Case

The appeals process is not the same as a trial. Therefore, if you have had a judgment entered against you, you don’t want just any lawyer to handle your appeal – you need an appellate attorney that knows the law, has extensive experience in handling appeals, and possesses the skills required to successfully argue your case to the appellate court.

The criminal defense attorneys at Rogers Sevastianos & Bante, LLP, have over 75 years of combined criminal defense experience and have represented political figures and high-profile individuals and firms.

We have successfully handled hundreds of jury trials and federal appeals, and are here to protect your rights and obtain the best possible outcome for your case. For more information on the federal appeals process, or to consult one of our attorneys about your situation, contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

CONTACT US